Angry judge jails corruption case felon
by David Crowder
Posted on May 22, 2009
El Paso architect Bernardo Lucero Jr., who has been free on bond since pleading guilty to two counts of conspiring to defraud the El Paso school district in 2007, was back in federal court in jailhouse blues and chains again Thursday.
Federal District Judge Frank Montalvo revoked Lucero's bond Tuesday after learning that Lucero had engaged in a financial transaction that violated the terms of his release.
Lucero is one the 11 individuals who has pleaded guilty to charges in the past two years in connection with the public corruption investigation being conducted in El Paso by the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office.
None of those defendants has yet to be sentenced but Montalvo has made it clear to each that their punishment will depend on their conduct and cooperation in the protracted investigation.
Looking unhappy and sullen, Lucero appeared with his lawyer, Anthony Gonzales, before Montalvo, who shouted at Lucero to show his displeasure and threatened to keep him in jail.
Montalvo noted that it was the second time Lucero had violated the terms of his release by engaging in a significant and out-of-the-ordinary financial transaction without consulting with the probation or pre-trial officer in charge of ensuring his compliance.
“From the beginning, Mr. Lucero didn’t understand he first has to ask permission before he takes action,” Montalvo told Gonzales.
The previous transaction evidently was a rollover of retirement funds into a new account or financial vehicle that, while routine, involved a substantial amount of money and required prior approval.
Then on March 9, Montalvo said, Lucero casually informed his probation officer that he had made arrangements to replace a roof, apparently on a commercial building, as part of an insurance settlement.
Montalvo said Lucero received a $48,000 check in February and then applied for a loan to cover the balance of the cost in violation of his release orders.
Both the check and the loan application should have reported earlier and Lucero needed approval from his pre-trial officer or the court to enter into the transactions.
“Until he gets the understanding of this, he will sit in jail,” Montalvo threatened. “He did what he did, and he can’t get around it. It’s the second time he ignored my pre-trial order.
“My intent is for him to understand what the rules are. (I am) very angry, very, very angry because he has been accommodated by my pre-trial officer.
“He doesn’t mow the lawn! We can put the screws to him in every way the law allows because (Lucero) is a convicted felon. He has to play by the rules. This is not rocket science.”
Gonzales requested a few minutes time to discuss the situation with his client, and after the hearing resumed, both Gonzales and Lucero apologized to Montalvo and promised to comply.
After scolding Lucero again for treating the two officers charged with his oversight “like hired hands,” Montalvo said he would reinstate the bond arrangement and allow Lucero to be released from jail.
Late Thursday, however, Lucero had not posted bond and remained in the El Paso County Detention Center.
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To reach David Crowder, write to email@example.com or call (915) 351-0605, ext. 30
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